Friday, July 17, 2009

the way it was

Walter Cronkite defined the role of anchorman. The iconic newsman died tonight at 92. When I see clips of his career on TV or the Internet, I wish that my parents had watched him more often. They were partial to John Chancellor on NBC and the Huntley-Brinkley Report before that.

Cronkite will always be most associated with his coverage of President Kennedy's assassination and of Apollo 11. As the 40th anniversary of the historic lunar landing approaches, I've been thinking about that night. We were on vacation and the only channel we could get happened to be an ABC affiliate.

I got Walter Cronkite's autograph twice. One year, my father took us to the Robert F. Kennedy Pro-Celebrity Tennis Tournament at Forest Hills. I asked several famous people to sign a program. Somebody else, who got more signatures than I did, is selling a signed program for $3,500.

When I was in college at GMU, a friend and I waited in line at a record store in Georgetown to get Cronkite's signature on a vinyl album set he had released. I remember that he advised my friend to major in something other than journalism if she wanted to be a journalist. Many network correspondents have law degrees or other areas of expertise.

CBS will air a tribute to Cronkite on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. I'll be setting my DVR to record it, how about you?

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

well behaved bloggers

Usually the musicians are already on stage when a performance of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra begins. Tonight the show opened Mariachi style. Eleven people walked out from the wings, the bass players, cellists and harpsichordist sat down but the violinists remained standing as they played Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major.

Maestro Lucas Richman made his first appearance of the night after the front part of the stage with the harpsichord was lowered and then raised again with a grand piano on it. Richman thanked the sponsors and welcomed those of us in the audience for the KSO's second blogger night. I suspect that most of the senior citizens in the audience heard "blah blahs, for those who don't know, are people who blah on the Internet."

Soloist Navah Perlman played Mozart's Concerto No. 24 in C Minor with the full symphony. I especially enjoyed the way the violins blended with her performance on the piano on the softer notes. As I listened, I wondered how she could play for 31 minutes without sheet music. Fortunately it was blogger night, so I could just ask her at the post-concert reception. She uses muscle memory and also remembers thoughts and smells that she encountered while learning the piece. She specifically mentioned remembering the smell of a chocolate cake baking while she practiced. Mmm.. cake.

The most accessible opus on the program, and therefore probably my favorite, was Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 in A Major. The first movement of the so-called "Italian Symphony" is very familiar. If I was flipping stations and happened to come across it on WUOT, I would turn up the volume and stay in my car until the end of the movement, even if I had reached my destination. During the performance Maestro Richman conducted the orchestra with his whole body. He bounced on his toes with a boyish enthusiasm that reminded me of my own childhood when I would pretend to conduct whatever symphony was coming from my father's record player. I like my classical music loud and fast. At the reception, the maestro told me that he was using his body to express the energy level he wanted from the musicians. He said that famous conductor Kurt Masur uses a lot of energy when rehearsing that piece but barely moves at all during performances of it.

My neighbor is a KSO musician. He was at the reception and we talked about firewood and how I saw him using his chainsaw the other day to cut logs. Another musician said I would be surprised how much stuff they do that is dangerous to their hands. This other guy once cut his finger pretty badly but was happy it happened to his bow hand. A female musician chimed in that she had cut off the tip of a finger but proudly showed how it was successfully reattached.

Navah Perlman was fighting a cold tonight. During our conversation we talked about ordinary stuff too. She could name a couple of grocery stores in each region of the country where she travels like Kroger and Piggly Wiggly in the south and Vons and Ralphs out west. A particular favorite of hers is Fred Meyer in the Northwest. The talk of travel turned to talk of her four kids. The last two are twins. She said if they had come first, she might have stopped right there. Navah's runny nose will not interfere with your enjoyment if you should go to Friday night's performance at the beautiful Tennessee Theatre.

It was a pleasure to chat with several fellow bloggers at the reception as well. Look for links to their reviews to be posted on the spiffy KSO blog soon. We should all try to put our own review links in each others' comment sections too.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

when Hamptons wasn't cool

The Penny Candy Shop has gone out of business, reports my sister. She was visiting one of my favorite places on Earth, the east end of Long Island and saw the sign in the window. According to the real estate listings, the former Penny Candy Shop is for sale. The price? 200 million pennies.

The P.C.S. now joins Kathleen's Bakeshop on my list of former favorites in the Hamptons. Kathleen's sold the famous Crutchley's Cruller hearts (doughnut holes), which you would drop into a bag of powdered sugar and shake. Like the original Crutchley's Bakery, Kathleen's is closed now, as we discovered when we were in the area last summer. I saw online that Kathleen lost the rights to her own name. She has a new business called Tate's Bake Shop but there's no mention of whether she still sells the hearts.

One of my parents' favorite restaurants in the Hamptons was Herb McCarthy's. It closed in the '80s. The microbrewery now in that location named a beer after Old Herb. It was the least they could do.

As far as I can tell, the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton and Sip 'n Soda in Southampton are still open and doing fine, even after the recent death of one of Sip 'n Soda's owners. And so is our local choice for pizza, La Parmigiana in Southampton.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

pucker up

The lemonade stands in the neighborhood where I grew up consisted of nothing more than a card table and a sign made of oak tag. That was what they called poster board around those parts. Today I spotted a lemonade stand as nice as the ones in the comic strips. Here's a photo I took from my car just as the kids were closing up shop. Next time I drive down that street I will have to drop 50¢ and buy a glass.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

faith of our fathers

Writing about my father's birthday yesterday got me wondering what he would look like if he were still alive. He would be about the same age as Ted Kennedy, Gene Shalit and Casey Kasem. Of the three, he would probably look most like Kennedy. On this Memorial Day weekend, I can make a virtual visit to the cemetery where my father is buried, thanks to a blog entry I posted two years ago.

A blog post I read this past week mentioned a priest named Fr. Michael Whelan of Australia. Seeing that last name reminded me that my father had a friend named Fr. Charlie Whelan (of New York). Like my father, Fr. Whelan was a writer. He worked for a Catholic magazine called America. A quick search revealed that Fr. Whelan retired from the magazine a year ago after 40 years of service. Best of all, they have posted a video of Fr. Whelan speaking about the first article he wrote for America. I can see and hear what one of my father's contemporaries looks and sounds like today. I didn't realize until now that Fr. Whelan was about five or six years older than my father.

In the video, Fr. Whelan mentions President John F. Kennedy and the relationship between church and state. That became his area of expertise both as a writer and as a professor at Fordham Law School. He successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court in 1971 on behalf of a Baptist church. The Fordham Law Review published a couple of tributes to him last May.

This morning at church I picked up a free copy of a newsletter called Catholic Update. The June issue deals with church and state too. It emphasizes that the Church does not endorse candidates or tell people how to vote. It merely reminds voters of the 7 key themes to keep in mind when making their own choices. Catholics are not single-issue voters. One sentence summed up my problem with politics:
In today’s environment, Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised, sensing that no party and few candidates fully share our comprehensive commitment to human life and dignity.
The newsletter directed me to a website on Faithful Citizenship that will warrant further reading on my part.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

retirement fund

The A&P was synonymous for "grocery store" when I was growing up even though my mother also shopped at Finast, Waldbaum's and Grand Union. In fact, she would usually compare the sales flyers in advance and then go to two or three supermarkets in one trip to get the best deals from each.

The heir to the A&P fortune didn't care too much about getting the best deals. Huntington Hartford's obituaries are the most interesting things I've read all day. According to the reports, he squandered $80 million of his $90 million inheritance. I don't know about you, but I could certainly get by on the leftover $10 million.

Let me share some of the best parts with you. From The New York Times:
Huntington went to Harvard, studying English literature and graduating in 1934. He went to work for his uncles at the company’s headquarters, then housed in the Graybar Building next to Grand Central Terminal, where his job was to keep track of sales of bread and pound cake. But he was often absent. In 1934 he defiantly took a day off to attend the Harvard-Yale football game. That ended his career in the family business. Yale won, 14-0.

In 1940, Mr. Hartford tried being a reporter for the New York newspaper PM, after putting up $100,000 to help get the paper started. If nothing else, the experience produced one of the all-time great excuses for missing deadline: he once sailed his yacht to cover an assignment on Long Island, and upon returning to the city could find no place to tie up and come ashore with the story.

With the start of World War II, he donated the yacht to the Coast Guard. In return he was given the command of a modest supply ship in the Pacific. He ran it aground twice — once, he said later, because his navigational charts were out of date, the other time because "I mistook feet for fathoms."
From The Washington Post:
His excesses cost him financially and personally. He had unexpectedly ascetic habits in some pockets of his life, such as a disinclination to drink alcohol. But his fourth marriage, in the 1970s, marked a turning point. According to a 2004 Vanity Fair magazine report, that last wife, a Fort Lauderdale hairdresser a decade his junior, introduced Mr. Hartford to cocaine, amphetamines and quaaludes.

He was hospitalized at least once for an overdose, and his fourth wife remained a destructive presence in his life for years. His apartment at One Beekman Place in New York became the site of violent encounters involving transient visitors. He was once left for hours writhing in pain after falling and breaking a hip.

When he made the news, it was usually for something unsavory, such as the fourth wife's assault on his secretary.
It looks like Hartford had one good idea that could have increased his wealth if he had been able to get a gambling license for Paradise Island. From the Times again:
Costlier still was Mr. Hartford’s makeover of Hog Island, in the Bahamas. After buying four-fifths of the place in 1959 and having it renamed Paradise Island, he set about developing a resort with the construction of the Ocean Club and other amenities. Advisers persuaded him to stop short of exotic attractions like chariot races, but, overextended and unable to get a gambling license, he wound up losing an estimated $25 million to $30 million.
Missed it by that much.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008


The librarian at my grammar school was a 90-year old Christian Brother. Once a week we would go to a religion class with him. He showed us ancient glass slides of religious art and taught us several short prayers. I think he called them either aspirations or invocations.

As an aside, I was looking for those prayers online and found some at on a webpage maintained by Father John the Carnival Priest. His site says, he's been "serving the needs of the outdoor amusement business industry since 1969!"

Anyhow, one of the prayers I memorized long ago came to mind while I was taking a walk around the neighborhood. You can see why I thought of the Prayer to Your Guardian Angel. Or should it be the Gardenin' Angel?

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

artful dodger

Stories about animal cruelty often evoke a greater response than stories about cruelty to humans. The news about a box turtle in Brooklyn has gotten my attention. Myrtle was found covered in the same orange paint used at construction sites. I thought everyone knew that you aren't supposed to put paint on a turtle.

When I was a kid, we would visit my grandparents' house on Long Island every summer. I loved walking through the nearby woods to look for toads and box turtles. Sometimes I would bring one back to the house and feed it some wild raspberries before eventually letting it go. There's at least one box turtle who lives near my house here in Knoxville. Perhaps you remember the time I saved it from drowning in my pool.

Myrtle's story was first reported on Monday by a Brooklyn blog called Gowanus Lounge. Since then it's been picked up by the wire services and the local media. WCBS-TV has a video report you can watch.

The outlook is good for Myrtle. A painted shell is much more harmful to baby turtles than to one that's full grown. The Gowanus Lounge readers posted links to the Turtle Rescue of Long Island, which may be able to help. Another reader suggested using a product which worked for a turtle named Goldie. It would be fitting for the orange paint to be removed by a product called Fast Orange.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

show some restraint

Thanks to an email reminder from my friend Bean, my family and I went to Baskin-Robbins after dinner tonight. It was their annual 31 Cent Scoop Night. While blogrolling this afternoon, I had also read a posting on Reality Me about the promotion. Just like last year there was a line out the door. A sign on that door warned customers of the ten scoop limit. Another sign advertised that they needed help. I was tempted to hop behind the counter and pitch in.

Back in my scooping days, we had to wear hats when working at Baskin-Robbins. Tonight, an employee in a red shirt kept touching her long hair after bending over to scoop out some ice cream. The lower she had to reach for the ice cream, the closer her hair got to the tubs. My wife said that she didn't want this girl to serve us. When it was our turn, I told the girl that we needed another minute to decide. She moved on to the next customer and we were helped by a guy with short hair.

I saw several people with multiple scoops including a guy who showed me his five. I only got a single scoop of Chocolate Mousse Royale, which was all I needed. As good as it was, I realized that I have lost my ice cream jones. When I first moved to Knoxville, I would eat ice cream almost every night. That's part of the reason I gained the weight that I lost a couple of years ago. I still love sweets but if I had to choose between ice cream and cake, I think I would take the cake. Or the cookie or the brownie or some candy.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

always more fun

The cupcake fad is about to hit Knoxville in a big way. We already have VG's Bakery and MagPies, both of which I still haven't tried. However I have discovered another blog devoted to the little treats, Cupcakes Takes the Cake.

Now The Cupcakery has established its first foothold in East Tennessee with a delivery-only location in Oak Ridge. They plan to open a Bearden store in June. I had the opportunity to taste a couple of their flavors one afternoon last week when a box was delivered to the office. There were enough for me to take two varieties home. I cut each in half and shared them with my wife. The Double Chocolate had a disc of baking chocolate stuck into the buttercream icing as a garnish. The Peanut Butter Cup had a crumbled Reese's on top. As you would expect, the creamy frosting steals the show from the chocolate cake. That's probably why a cupcake shop in Los Angeles sells icing shots for 75 cents. I think I would enjoy one of these gourmet cupcakes with some buttercream injected into the middle. Can't have too much frosting.

If the Bearden store were already open, I would be tempted to swing by this week for the featured flavor, the Graceland. It has banana cake with peanut butter icing. I've always loved banana cake. By the way, why can't I ever find the frozen Sara Lee Banana Cake I loved as a child? Anyhow, back to the point. The Cupcakery will offer Graceland cupcakes from April 28 through May 3. I wonder if they might be similar to the Elvis Cupcakes I saw online. One of the blog commenters suggests a Fluffernutter cupcake. This. Must. Happen.

Bearden will actually be home to two cupcake shops. Their online calendar says Cities Cupcake Boutique will have its grand opening on Sunday, May 18 but according to their store hours, they will be closed Sundays. When I was a kid, Sundays were the busiest day at the Crestwood Bakery. Everyone went there after church. Oh yeah, back to the point again. Cities cupcakes are each named after a different city. Knoxville gets an orange cupcake. In a bit of political commentary, the vanilla cupcake is named after Washington, DC. Maybe they can do a peanut butter and banana cupcake and name it after Memphis.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

you're it

A few of the blogs I regularly scan have been tagged with the same meme. I got tagged by missybw at The House of Flying Monkeys. Who can I tag? I think I've used up my quota on other memes. I either need to find some new targets or try something else. Here's my idea. Tag yourself. Go ahead and write your own responses in the comments here or post a link to your own blog.

Name one thing you do every day:
The obvious answer is that I post something on my blog. I also try to watch and delete something on the HD DVR or the TiVo.

Name five things/people that make you feel good:
dark chocolate
doing improv
reading my friend Bean's blog
a nice long nap
swimming in my backyard pool

Name four things you love to eat but rarely do:
Oreos dunked in milk until they stop bubbling
pulled pork BBQ

Name three things that remind you of childhood:
smell of my mother's Chanel N°5
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Name two things you wish you could learn:
to sing half as well as my wife
to deal with the anxiety that causes me to procrastinate (add link later)

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

hope your day is snappy

The rule of three compels me to write about "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" today. The show, which was a childhood favorite of mine, turned up on my pop culture radar three times in the past few days. Jimmy Kimmel celebrated the 40th anniversary of the classic PBS program with some of his famous Unnecessary Censorship.

Then I saw a news story that Speedy Deliveryman Mr. McFeely is on YouTube urging us to wear a sweater on March 20 because it would have been Fred Rogers' 80th birthday. Mr. McFeely is played by David Newell, another of the people I interviewed for "Where Are They Wednesday?" on the oldies station. Did you know that McFeely was actually Fred Rogers' middle name? It was also the last name of his grandfather. TV's Mr. McFeely says we can send photos or videos of ourselves wearing sweaters via email (the speediest delivery) to

I saw yet another reminder of Mister Rogers while shopping at Food City. They're having a sweater drive that ends this Friday. David Newell was in Knoxville last month to promote it. I missed him on "Live at Five" but thanks to the Internet, I can still see the interview.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

it goes a little something like this

Auditions were held in Los Angeles yesterday and today for an upcoming show called "The Next Best Thing." It's another talent type competition with the hook being that the contestants are celebrity impersonators. I have always enjoyed watching impressionists but there's something a little creepy about most celebrity impersonators. Maybe it's the way they don't break character.

As a child, I loved a short lived TV show called "The Kopycats." Several of the era's best impressionists would perform skits in character. Frank Gorshin, George Kirby and Rich Little were regulars. Currently, I enjoy catching Frank Caliendo anytime he turns up on TV.

I can name several impressionists but what about celebrity impersonators? There's a local guy who does a great Barney Fife character at parades and other events but I didn't know his real name was Sammy Sawyer until I used my impressive Google skills just now. I once interviewed a real good Elvis impersonator named Travis LeDoyt. He's the only other celebrity impersonator whose name I can recall. They both should audition.

Jeffrey Ross and Lisa Ann Walter are supposed to be two of the judges on "The Next Best Thing." They're both funny and could make the show worth watching at least for a little while.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

maybe Zira and Cornelius did time travel

The "Planet of the Apes" movies were favorites of mine when I was a kid. I even liked the lame TV series that was based on the films. I still remember when my friend Brian Kirk got his parents to drive us to an all day "Planet of the Apes" marathon at a theater somewhere around Larchmont or Mamaroneck. It cost me 75 cents for a youth ticket to see all five Apes movies. That's only 15 cents per movie! I was flipping around the dial tonight and saw that the original "Planet of the Apes" was on TV. But why is it on the History Channel? Did I miss a lesson somewhere along the way?

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

one giant leap

Today is not a national holiday but it should be. 37 years ago tonight men walked on the moon. The momentous event is hardly commemorated at all. Not even by the annual Mooning of Amtrak. The least they could do is to hold their moon-a-thon a week later and claim a tie-in. But they don't.

If you're of a certain age, the lunar landing is probably one of your happiest memories. It certainly is one of mine. Between the flight of Apollo 11 and the unlikely success of the Miracle Mets, the summer of 1969 was amazin'. In a way, I am still the little kid who learned the names of all the Apollo astronauts and all the New York Mets that summer.

My family was on vacation in Noyac when the Eagle landed. We stayed up late to watch the coverage on an old black & white TV in my grandparents' summer cottage. The only channel we could get was WTNH out of New Haven, Connecticut. While most people think of Walter Cronkite's moon coverage, my memory is of Frank Reynolds, Howard K. Smith and science editor Jules Bergman.

Later that summer, my parents took us downtown to see the ticker-tape parade welcoming the astronauts home. Neil Armstrong has kept a fairly low profile since making history but he was interviewed on "60 Minutes" last year.

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